Bilge usually refers to the bottom of the
ship or, more correctly, to the curved part of the
ships hull. It also has another connotation.
Midshipmen who are dropped from school for
academic reasons are said to be bilged. Thus,
when used as a verb, the term means to be
dropped out of the bottomin this case the
bottom of the class.
The binnacle list gets its name from the
old nautical practice of placing the sick list on the
binnacle (stand containing ships compass). It was
placed there each morning so that it would be
readily available for the captain. The modern
binnacle list contains the names of personnel
suffering minor complaints that preclude their
employment on strenuous duty. Today the sick
list contains the names of personnel who are
Bitter end was originally the turn of a cables
end around the bitts. It now refers to the end of
the chain cable secured in the chain locker or the
loose end of a line. In all cases the inboard end
is referred to as the bitter end.
Uniforms first adopted for the Royal Navy
included a short, blue jacket. No universal
uniform was prescribed for U.S. Navy enlisted
personnel until the 1850s. Therefore, in the early
days of that century, many men unofficially wore
the blue jacket of the Royal Navy. Enlisted
personnel are sometimes referred to as blue-
jackets. The term white hat is used to refer to
Navy enlisted personnel below the rate of chief
Boatswain is pronounced bo-sun. Swain or
swein is the Saxon word for servant or boy. In
our Navy, boatswain refers to a warrant or petty
officer in charge of the deck crew. It also refers
to those responsible for the maintenance of the
ships hull and external equipment.
The boatswains pipe is an article of great
antiquity. Originally employed to call the
stroke in ancient row galleys, it became, in the
early English Navy, a badge of office and of
honor. Later the pipe became the distinctive
emblem of the boatswain and his mates. Today
boatswains mates use the pipe when the word
is passed, when officers are piped over the side,
and so forth.
Lord Nelson used a brig (a type of sailing ship)
in battle for removing prisoners from his ships;
hence, prisons at sea came to be known as brigs.
The bumboat is a boat employed by civilians
to carry salable provisions, vegetables, and small
merchandise to ships. The term may have been
derived from boom-boat, indicating boats
permitted to lie at the ships booms.
In the days of sail, the officer of the deck
constantly kept a weather eye on the slightest
change in wind so that sail could be reefed or
added as necessary to ensure the fastest headway.
Whenever a good breeze came along, the order
to carry on would be given. It meant to hoist
every bit of canvas the yards could carry. Pity the
poor sailor whose weather eye failed him and
allowed the ship to be caught partially reefed when
a good breeze arrived.
Through the centuries the terms connotation
has changed somewhat. Today, the Bluejackets
Manual defines carry on as an order to resume
work; work not so grueling as two centuries ago.
Caulk, commonly mispronounced cork,
means to pack a seam in the planking of a ship.
When caulking wooden ships in dry dock,
workmen usually had to lie on their backs
underneath the hull. In this position it was not
difficult to fall asleep. Hence, to take a caulk
or to caulk off is the sailors expression for
sleeping or taking a nap.